Endings and Beginnings and a Mama’s Heart at Graduation

This weekend found me in the basement digging through old pictures with tears in my eyes, gathering snapshots of Luke’s life to display at his graduation open house. I’m not sad that he’s graduating (he is SO ready to be done with high school), I’m not even sad that he’ll be moving out in a couple of months (ask me how I feel about this in August and maybe you’ll get a different answer?)

I’m sad that time passes.

I’m sad for the moments we won’t ever get back.

I’m sad that I’ll never again kiss that little stubble-less face, or feel the fierce love of his 5 year old body jumping into my arms. I can still see the mischievous gleam of his younger self in his adult eyes, that kid will never outgrow his love of shenanigans. But he has outgrown  hearing laughter in any room of our house and running to be in the middle of whatever is going on.

He’s also outgrown my mommy-super powers. I can’t kiss his owies and make them better any more. I used to be able to cure hurt feelings, overcome any insults his day held, by saying, “Are you kidding me? You’re AWESOME dude!” My words were weighty, but they haven’t worked that way in 5 years.

We’ve already seen how the hurts and hardships of adolescence shaped and made him stronger, so I know I  shouldn’t shield him. But boy, do I wish I could. I want to fold him into my arms and protect him from his own mistakes and others’ opinions and the heartbreak of living in the world. But I can’t, and I won’t.

So we’ll release him out into the world, taking the next big step in the journey of trust that is parenthood. We’ll trust our kid, and we’ll trust the seeds that we planted all these many years, and we’ll trust that his roots are deep enough to hold him strong through every season. But most of all, we’ll trust our Father God to work all things for good, to take even the saddest things in his life (and ours) and make something beautiful.

I can’t stop time, or hold onto the past. So I’ll remind myself that – like all the best things in life – this is both an end and a beginning. All I can do is be present, and give thanks.

I’ll keep seeing the little boy in this amazing, strong, Jesus-loving man we raised, and I’ll thank God. For Luke, for our family, and for time, even when it seems like there’s never enough.

 

We've already seen how the hurts and hardships of adolescence shaped and made him stronger, so I know I  shouldn't shield him. But boy, do I wish I could. I want to fold him into my arms and protect him from his own mistakes and others' opinions and the heartbreak of living in the world. But I can't, and I won't. So we'll release him out into the world, taking the next big step in the journey of trust that is parenthood.

(Because I know I’ll get asked… The hand-lettered sign in this pic was my Mother’s Day gift, done by Lovewell Lettering, in partnership with The Hope Venture and Mercy for Mamas. I LOVE it almost as much as I love the organizations its purchase supported, I assume they’re still available if you want one!)

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10 Commandments for a Happy Home

Hello from our last months as a family of five living under one roof, our last days with a high school senior.

I could mourn (And I have cried. Friends, you know I have CRIED.) But I’m choosing to celebrate. To count gifts, to name the things that have made our home happy. So many things bless our days and hours together in this season, blessings that add up to a happy home.

Here’s my top 10 list, 10 things I love about our family, 10 ways to live together well, 10 commandments for a happy home. Continue reading

Everyday Holy: Creating a Sacramental Family

I hadn’t been a mother for very long before realizing that waking up before my children is a necessity for my mental health. I am a morning person, and I don’t function well without a bit of silence (and coffee) before facing the needs and demands of parenthood and life.

So nearly every week day my alarm goes off and I roll out of bed, stumble into my clothes, wander to the kitchen to pour a warm cup of wake-me-up,  and fall into the chair in my bedroom for a little silence, solitude, and time with Jesus and His Word. This is my preferred start to the day, and (when I don’t let myself get distracted by my dumb phone) it is a delight. But it is not the most delightful part of my morning.

The most delightful part of my morning begins over the next 30 minutes or so as the rest of the house wakes up.

Our youngest son is the only other early riser in the family. When our border collie camps out in the hallway, I know M is starting to move around. Before long I have a sleepy-eyed, pajama clad visitor. His preferred start to the day is a few minutes on my lap, and at almost 9 he will outgrow morning cuddles soon, so I soak them up while they last.

Soon my sweet husband drags himself out of bed and wakes up our sleepyhead middle child. T rises at the crack of dawn on weekends, but has to be pried out of bed when school is on the schedule. Eventually he too makes his way to my chair, seemingly unable to face the daunting task of getting dressed without a hug and kiss from his mama.

At some point in the morning, Matt wanders by in various stages of getting ready, kisses me, and tells me he loves me. An affectionate spouse is a gift I never tire of receiving.

Our youngest is eating breakfast by now, having let the dog out to do his morning business. When Dudley comes back inside, he (hilariously) also comes darting into the bedroom, sitting insistently at my feet until I tell him good morning too. He won’t leave until I’ve petted him, and most of the time he jumps up into my lap for a doggie-breath scented hug.

As my quiet morning draws to and end and the clock reminds me that it’s time to finish getting ready for my day, our oldest son comes in to say goodbye. As my alarm goes off every morning, I hear his blaring through the vents from the basement, attempting to wake the only other family member who has to be up early. This giant blond bearded man is about to graduate and fly our nest, but he never leaves without coming in and kissing his mother goodbye.


One of my co-workers has been studying and thinking about the idea of sacraments, and he won’t shut up about it (I’m not complaining, I love it!) A Sacrament is “a visible sign of an inward grace”. In the church the sacraments are the intentional, physical ceremonies we do to remind ourselves of God’s love and presence, like communion and baptism.

A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, they create an environment of affection and appreciation. A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, these small things can become holy, sacramental.

Nearly accidentally, we created a family culture of waking up to say I love you and hear it back.

I realized today that is what I want from my morning times: A quiet moment to crawl into my heavenly Father’s lap, hear “I love you” and say it back.

His love makes every day holy.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Photo in images by Ember + Ivory on Unsplash

 

3 Tips for Parenting Middle Schoolers

T Baby Pic11 Years ago this month I woke up on a chilly Monday wondering, like so many overdue women before me, if I’d be pregnant forever.

8 hours later I was having an unexpected (unwanted but necessary) C-Section. Please do notice that even in the crazy surprise of that day, I managed to get my bright lipstick on.

I blinked, and that tiny baby – my first to birth but second of 3 to mother – sauntered into my house this week and handed over an invitation to his middle school registration/info night. The NERVE of these children, to keep growing up on us!

I thought the second time around would be easier, but with 7 years between my oldest and middle, I’m responding with similar light-headedness and the need to repeat, “CALM, the thing to do is BE CALM.”

In the service of holding tight to CALM, I decided to think back to what I learned the first time we face Middle School, remembering the conversations I had with other moms, and the things I journaled back then.

I know I’m not the only parent reminding herself to breathe over this particular milestone. When I asked Facebook for advice for sending a kid to Middle school, the responses were everything from warnings about more homework and the need for organization (likely to be a a bigger problem this time around than it was for my type A firstborn) to “I am absolutely terrified.”

For those of us freaking out about sending our babies to middle school next year, here are the Top 3 Lessons we learned from surviving Middle School the first time around (with high hopes for surviving it two more times!) Continue reading

Raising Boys in the Age of #MeToo

I am so thankful that people are beginning to talk more openly about abuse and harassment occuring in places where there are power differences between men and women. After years of work with college women in the church, I am familiar with stories of abuse, molestation and harassment. Very little that is happening in the #MeToo movement is surprising to me. It is GOOD that these things are coming to light.

But it’s also depressing. And a little terrifying, as I’m busy raising 3 future men.

I’d really like to guarantee that these boys would never show their penis to someone at work. I’d like to know that they’d never use any position of influence or power to abuse or belittle women (or other men.) I’d like them to see women (and other men) as human beings, made in God’s image, not something to be used and abused.

Even writing this, I’m scared because I have no guarantees. Did Matt Lauer’s mom know she was raising a creeper (I think I am supposed to say alleged creeper – though I believe his victims)? Did Bill Cosby’s mom know she was raising a rapist (again, alleged, but…)? Did the mothers of any of the men headlining the news right now know what their sons would become? Maybe they knew, maybe they didn’t. I don’t personally know anyone who wants to raise a child who will show their unsolicited private parts to co-workers (or worse.)

I’d like to be intentional in all areas, but especially in this area. So I’m starting a list of things I think will help my efforts to teach my boys not to be creepers or abusers.

Continue reading

Spiritual Adulting

I live half my life with millennials, so I’m always hearing how hard adulting is, and “I can’t adult today”. Of course I also get a front row seat to watch people grow up and learn to “adult” whether they like it or not (English major alert: I’m finding it super hard to use adult as a verb, even when I’m speaking I mentally add the quotes. I’m going to try to relax, but…)

My job allows me to be a sort of midwife/doula as college students move from freshmen to seniors, then graduate and learn to take responsibility in their lives and relationships. The internet is awash with resources for “adulting” in life and business and (to a lesser extent) relationships, but I’ve been thinking of ways we grow up in our spiritual lives. Continue reading

The hardest part of parenting, #13: Letting Kids Learn From Their Mistakes

I chatted with a friend last week who is pretty sure she is not going to survive middle school with her daughter. As I listened, I found myself thinking and saying, “Isn’t that just the hardest thing about being a parent?” Except there wasn’t just one hardest thing, there were maybe 7, in that one conversation, with one friend.

There is way more than ONE hardest part of parenting. So I decided to write a (periodic and probably sporadic) series on the 26 hardest parts of parenting.*

The hardest part of parenting, #13: Letting Kids Learn From Their Mistakes

I am not naturally a helicopter mom, or prone to hovering, but just typing “let them learn from their mistakes” makes me feel anxious. I believe in natural consequences, and I think all kids learn better from experience than from words or lectures.

But the older my kids get, the harder I feel the temptation to rescue them from their mistakes. I think about the hard lessons I learned, socially and personally, and I don’t want my boys to have to learn the hard way.

When my kids were young, I did need to rescue them (sometimes). And when they didn’t know how to do something (or were doing it in a way that would harm themselves and others), it was my actual job to put my hands on theirs and show them how to do it, literally and figuratively.

But now that they are getting older, I know I need to take my hands off. If not immediately and all at once, then slowly and progressively as they approach the teenage years and adulthood.

The Selfie Podcast last week** had a great conversation about the healthy practice of detachment (which I was only vaguely familiar with.) The counselor they interviewed encouraged parents to provide their kids with a safe place to make mistakes and to fall. She talked about toddlers learning to walk: We remember that moment when our little one first took her hand off the coffee table. Not one of us steps in and shouts, “Don’t let go! You might fall!” We hold out our hands to them, inviting them to step away from safety, knowing they will fall. But knowing as well that falling is a natural part of learning to walk.

That is so easy and natural with toddlers learning to walk. But with school aged kids learning to make friends? With middle schoolers learning to take care of their bodies and responsibilities? With high schoolers applying to college and negotiating romantic relationships?

I seriously do not love that falling is part of learning to walk. I don’t love that failure is a necessary part of learning to be an adult.

Nearly every really important life lesson I’ve ever learned had to be learned the hard way. Why am I so driven to protect my children from “the hard way”?

I have to ask myself:

Where is the line between being a coach and a consultant, and being a nag, a helicopter parent, a rescuer?

Where does my son need a reminder to fulfill his responsibilities, and where am I acting like it is my homework, my test grade, my future on the line?

Where can I coach and help my boys learn about relationships, appropriate ways to treat  and value people? And where am I trying to shield and protect them from my own regrets and hardest lessons?

How can I provide a safe, loving, accepting environment for these precious future adults to learn from their mistakes?

How can I provide a soft place to land now, so that they can enter the wider world not afraid of making mistakes?

 

 

* I’m not sure there will actually be 26, but can’t rule it out. And I chose to start with 13 because #1 seems like it should be for real the hardest thing, and I’m not sure what I think that is yet.

** Selfie is a great podcast, but in this particular episode you need to know that before you get to the amazing self-care and parenting conversation on detachment, they have 30 minutes on pubic hair. Yep, you read that correctly. So if you’re not interested in the care and keeping of your nether regions (or if, like me, you never considered anything beyond going ahem au naturel, so you don’t want to think about wax or laser removal or clippers down there), skip to the 28 minute mark.

 

Photo in images by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Store Bought Halloween Costumes are not a Mom Fail.

I got married and became a mom at the same time, to a 5 year old. For Luke’s first birthday (with me as his mom), I hosted an elaborate Pirate party for all the boys in his kindergarten class. It was at our house and featured an amazing homemade cake that looked like a pirate ship. I don’t remember how I managed that. I do remember that the activities I planned to fill our 2 hour party time took 30 minutes, and that I decided never to host a kid party at our house again.

T was my first (and only) baby, and for his first birthday party we had designer invitations, and a cowboy theme that included a horse costume for him. It was adorable and probably way over the top, considering he doesn’t remember it at all.

The first birthday we celebrated for my youngest (who joined our family at 2) was his 3rd. He was obsessed with horses, so we re-used much of what we’d used for T’s 1st, and I threw a bunch of plastic horses on a Texas Sheet Cake. He was delighted.

******

We had a mini-party when Luke lost his firth tooth, then celebrated again when he woke up the next morning with quarters under his pillow.

My youngest wakes me up with the wail, “THE TOOTH FAIRY DIDN’T COME!!”

That *&%$ Tooth Fairy! A friend said she tells her kids the tooth fairy left their money in Mommy’s purse…

*****

When the kids were younger, I put a lot of thought (and influence) into their costumes. One year I made homemade Angry Bird Costumes. I like themed costumes, so we’ve also had Luke and T as a knight and dragon (that is my favorite to this day) and Shaggy and Scooby Doo. Once we grew to a family of 5, I settled for T and M as store bought Mario and Luigi one year, and Captain America and Ironman another.

Last year I took my younger two to Target on the day after Halloween, and they picked their own costumes. M is delighted to be dressing up as Black Panther (we got a great deal on the helmet, then paid full price for the rest of the outfit this month because I guess that discount helmet committed me?) T is  dressing as this random pirate ghost thing with a pumping heart. Luke is on his own (I think he and his girlfriend should dress us as Westley and Buttercup from the Princess Bride, but I’m not financing or supplying any of that, so we’ll see.)

*****

Some years, for some holidays, for some of my kids, I’ve gone way over the top. I love parties, I love costumes, I love celebrating milestones. I loved those years, and I treasure those memories.

Were some of the things I did a little Extra? Maybe. But I get to be Extra sometimes with the home made costumes and elaborate party planning, or anything else I want to be Extra about.

Some years, for some holidays, for some of my kids, I’ve thrown things together at the last minute. Some years I had neither the time not the creative energy for home made anything.

And you know what? I love the pictures of those parties, those Halloweens, those memories, just as much. And my kids are healthy, happy, and ready for their “whatever you want” costumes this year.

*****

A sweet young mom friend recently shared on Facebook that she’s feeling guilty all the time, like sort of a failure as a mom, especially about Halloween.

There’s nothing I can do to make it easier for any mom to be away from her kids. The only thing I can say to mom guilt is “Me too.” And “You’re a great mom, your kid is lucky to have you!”

But I would like to shout down the voice that tells her (or any of us) that buying a last minute, store bought Halloween Costume, is a mom-fail.

Nope.

Let’s give ourselves permission to do Halloween (and every day of the year) in whatever way works for our family this year.

Feeling Extra this year? Go for it!

Feeling extra tired this year? Wrap that child in aluminum foil and call them Chipotle.

Sometimes we’re getting it right and sometimes we’re getting it wrong, and we won’t really know how much therapy our kids are going to need for 20 years or so. But the wrong parts? Probably aren’t going to be “My mom didn’t hand make my Halloween Costume.”

Happy Halloween 🙂

Photo in images is by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X: RESOURCES

As a follow up to my post Thursday about talking to our kids about sex and their bodies, today I’m sharing a podcast and 2 great books that have been super helpful in teaching our kids about sex and their bodies.

Resources for Talking to Kids about Sex

Continue reading

Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X

Parenting is a learn-on-the-job adventure, never more so than in figuring out how to talk to your kids about their bodies and sex.

Like nearly every girl of my generation, I was handed a book about sex (probably something terrifying like “Growing Up Is Beautiful”) and taught myself how to use tampons by reading the Kotex box. My sweet Mama did better than her own parents, she had no idea what was happening when she started her period and thought she was dying.

So here I am trying to raise healthy kids – boys! – wanting to do a good job teaching my kids about their bodies and sexuality, wanting openness and to avoid shame. Wanting them to be ready for this age of sexualized rice-a-roni commercials and p0rnography that is available 24-7 at the click of a button.

If we ever get to know if we’ve succeeded in this area, it won’t be until they are older, but we’re trying hard to be proactive in this area. We’ve made a few decisions and found a few resources that have been super helpful. Continue reading